Admin listens to student grievances in town hall

By Jake Tiger

​​The annual student town hall featured a smorgasbord of Rider-related news: gender-inclusivity updates from the Center of Diversity and Inclusion, residence hall renovations, an acai bowl takeover coming to Cranberry’s and more.

On Feb. 29, Rider’s Student Government Association hosted students and administrators in room 201 of the Science and Technology Center to discuss students questions, concerns and complaints. 

Rider President Gregory Dell’Omo and his cabinet attended the event to answer pressing questions that were asked by the audience or submitted by students ahead of time.

CDI’s response

Toward the beginning of the town hall, Provost DonnaJean Fredeen was asked how the university was responding to recent criticisms from its gender-nonconforming community, with students accusing Rider staff and faculty of frequently misgendering and deadnaming, a term used to describe the use of a person’s birth name rather than their chosen one.

Some of the misgendered students were employees  of the CDI.

Fredeen emphasized the importance and difficulty of using the correct pronouns and shifting toward gender-neutral language, comparing the inclusivity adjustment to teaching “an old dog new tricks.”

“I was raised in West Texas, so I was always told to answer with ‘Yes, ma’am,’ or ‘Yes, sir.’ … I have found myself recently, as I have started to say that, to stop, because I’m not really sure that that is the appropriate response now,” said Fredeen during the town hall. “We really need to pay attention to what our students are saying to us about their pronouns.”

To prevent deadnaming and misgendering, Fredeen and Heeyoung Kim, Rider’s chief diversity officer, encouraged students to communicate with professors directly and ensure that their Canvas profiles have up-to-date information regarding their identity.

Kim said an announcement will be sent out to the university soon with resources to help students update their Canvas accounts with their pronouns and preferred names.

The CDI’s new director position, which Kim and Fredeen announced about a month ago in an interview with The Rider News, was officially approved and advertised, according to Kim.

She said the CDI will invite the position’s final candidates to campus to meet with the community, and through these meetings, students will have input in the selection of the new director.

“I’ll make sure that the final list has a chance to meet with the student body, not just introduce the director,” said Kim during the town hall. “Look out for those … forum requests for meeting with the final candidates.”

Facilities fixes

Mike Reca, vice president for facilities and university operations, announced that Conover Hall will be renovated over summer break, receiving the same treatment as Poyda Hall last year.

Conover, which sits along Route 206, has not been used this academic year due to a lack of residential students, according to Dean of Residence Life Roberta Butler.

Reca said a portion of Conover is currently being rented, but could not offer details beyond that.

The upgrades will include 56 new air conditioners, as well as updated bathrooms, paint and lighting throughout the building and fresh flooring in the common areas.

The renovations will either begin in May or July once the new fiscal year begins, but regardless, the residence hall will be ready for the fall 2024 semester, Reca added.

He told The Rider News that the university plans to update at least one residence hall every summer as long as enough funding is available, but ideally, he’d like to start tearing down old dorm buildings and replacing them with new ones.

“It’s a continual process,” said Reca. “We have all the plans, we have everything in place that we need, except a little bit of money.”

Reca discussed Rider’s long-term goal of a full renovation and addition to the Fine Arts building that would create a much-needed, dedicated space for the Westminster Choir College.

The Fine Arts overhaul was approved in 2019 when Rider transitioned WCC to its Lawrenceville campus, but the plan has since been shelved due to COVID-19-induced funding issues, according to Reca.

He was unable to offer a timeline for the plan.

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